Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Column with a short shelf life.

I wrote this piece back in November but never managed to sell it to anyone. So I figured I'd give it away for free, right here, to you lucky people.


There are two types of people in this country: Those who despise an election process that drags on for nearly two years, and those who merely hate it. But do the members of these diverse groups have valid reasons for their feelings? Does all this electioneering lead to sensory overload?

Let’s take a look back at the bid for the presidency. Barack Obama announced his candidacy a full twenty-one months before the election. John McCain followed suit three weeks later. Which meant we, the general public, were forced to begin thinking about all sorts of painful issues much earlier than was truly necessary. I, for one, resent the fact that precious media resources were devoted to topics such as the economy, health care, and the war on terrorism, rather than focusing on more relevant subjects, such as Clay Aiken’s sexual preference or the latest castoff from “Dancing With the Stars.”

Fortunately, the pundits—in an effort to keep our attention—had the good sense to dangle a few shiny objects in our field of vision, such as the cost of Governor Palin’s wardrobe, photos from her days as a beauty queen, and, in a surprising twist, a comprehensive etymological study of the phrase “hockey mom.”

But is this type of in-depth coverage more than the average American voter can withstand? To find out, I spoke to a man I’ll call “Joe the Figment.” The results of our conversation were revealing, to say the least.

Me: Mr. Figment, do you think today’s political campaigns are too long? Does the ceaseless barrage of rhetoric numb the average citizen to the point where he or she simply tunes out?

Joe the Figment: I like bean dip.

Me: Interesting. So is a two-year election cycle overkill or, to the contrary, does it give each of us ample time to thoroughly analyze the candidates’ views?

Joe the Figment: I wish I owned a pony.

Clearly, all of this campaigning is taking a toll. The question is, what can we do about it? In my view, one solution would involve a national “announce your candidacy” day, falling perhaps a month before the general election. Unfortunately, with the pesky First Amendment being what it is, there is no effective means by which to prevent a candidate from announcing his or her intentions early and beginning an oratorical assault on our senses.

That leaves only one viable option: Endeavor to make the campaigns, and the election itself, much more entertaining. To that end, I humbly submit the following trio of suggestions.

• Allow the debates to be judged by those renowned arbiters of talent, Simon, Paula, and Randy. The possibilities are intriguing. You could, for instance, require the candidates to perform an a capella arrangement of their foreign policy platform. “Nonsense,” you might say. “Musical ability has nothing to do with a candidate’s political prowess.” I say: Tell that to Bill Clinton and his saxophone.

• Stage a no-holds-barred cage match between vice presidential candidates. Talk about a crowd pleaser. And if you think Joe Biden would have had an unfair advantage over Sarah Palin in this arena, you are deluding yourself. Yes, Biden has years of cutthroat Senate experience on his side, but Palin’s survival instincts are as sharply honed as the hunting knife she used to dispatch a feral hog last spring.

• Haul out the polygraph machine. At every rally, campaign stop, stump speech, and town hall meeting, the candidates’ statements would be charted by a lie detector. Not only would this strategy reveal their true feelings on issues such as abortion, Social Security, and taxes, we would likely get a few chuckles from the reactions to such seemingly innocuous remarks as, “It’s great to be back in Des Moines.”

These are but a few examples of how we can make the election process more rewarding and less stressful for all of us. I urge you to take my words to heart.

By the way, I am running for county dogcatcher in 2010. I would appreciate your support.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

More of that big buck.

Just click here to see a video I posted on YouTube.

O' sweet irony, why must you torment me so?

I've been hunting some this year and haven't seen a good deer yet. I went yesterday afternoon and saw nothing. When I got home, Becky had taken this photo of a deer that was hanging around our front yard.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Memorable holiday music, to say the least

One of the ad agencies where I used to work (a long time ago) made this very memorable holiday video. Make sure you watch it all the way through.

Way to go, Joe!

My friend Joe Valenzuela sent me a photo from his latest blood donation. That means he earns a free hardback. So, Joe, email me again and let me know which book you want and how you'd like it signed. (Joe forgot to make the "Hook 'Em Horns" gesture, but since he's been to so many of my signings, I'll let it slide.)

Who's next? Go give blood and earn a free hardback! See the blog entry below.....

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Want to own a Kleenex tainted with Scarlett Johansson's snot—and a little lipstick?

You can, right here

Men Are Just Happier People

My wife just forwarded this to me. Pretty funny.

Why Men Are Happier Than Women.....

Your last name stays put. 

The garage is all yours.

Wedding plans take care of themselves. 

Chocolate is just another snack. 

You can be President. 

You can never be pregnant. 

You can wear a white T-shirt to a water park. 

You can wear NO shirt to a water park. 

Car mechanics tell you the truth.

The world is your urinal. 

You never have to drive to another gas station restroom because this one is just too icky. 

You don't have to stop and think of which way to turn a nut on a bolt.

Same work, more pay. 

Wrinkles add character. 

Wedding dress $5000. Tux rental-$100.

People never stare at your chest when you're talking to them.

The occasional well-rendered belch is practically expected. 

New shoes don't cut, blister, or mangle your feet. 

One mood all the time.

Phone conversations are over in 30 seconds flat. 

You know stuff about tanks. 

A five-day vacation requires only one suitcase. 

You can open all your own jars. 

You get extra credit for the slightest act of thoughtfulness. 

If someone forgets to invite you, he or she can still be your friend.

Your underwear is $8.95 for a three-pack. 

Three pairs of shoes are more than enough. 

You almost never have strap problems in public. 

You are unable to see wrinkles in your clothes. 

Everything on your face stays its original color. 

The same hairstyle lasts for years, maybe decades.

You only have to shave your face and neck.

You can play with toys all your life. 

Your belly usually hides your big hips. 

One wallet and one pair of shoes -- one color for all seasons.

You can wear shorts no matter how your legs look. 

You can "do" your nails with a pocket knife. 

You have freedom of choice concerning growing a mustache.

You can do Christmas shopping for all of the people on your shopping list on December 24 in 25 minutes and then act like all of the other gifts purchased for YOUR relatives and friends were your idea.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

This will choke you up.

Another entry in the stupid criminal files.

From the Statesman.....

San Antonio cashier tells robber to get a job

SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio police arrested a robbery suspect after a fast-food restaurant worker laughed at him and said get a job -- if he needed money.

The failed holdup happened last night at a McDonald's.

Police say the suspect approached a cashier and demanded money. Police say the cashier laughed and apparently didn't realize the man was trying to hold up the place.

The suspect then allegedly pulled out a box cutter and demanded the cashier's wallet. The employee complied, but had no money in his billfold.

The suspect fled, but was caught by police who responded to the robbery call.

San Antonio police say the suspect is expected to be charged with aggravated robbery.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


I watched an interesting show on the history of Christmas last night on the History Channel. Learned quite a few things. Did you know that there were winter solstice celebrations around this time of year—long before Christianity came along? Many people worshipped pagan gods such as Mithra and Odin. Some of these celebrations or festivals were brimming with drunkenness and debauchery. Way back when, people used to drag evergreens into their homes as a way to battle the bleak wintertime and celebrate life. Then Christianity grew and the holiday sort of evolved into a celebration of the birth of Jesus. Didn't stop some of the partiers, though. The Puritans even cancelled Christmas for a while. You can read more about it right here. All in all, Christmas has had a sort of strange and varied past. Here's an interesting excerpt:
In the early years of Christianity, Easter was the main holiday; the birth of Jesus was not celebrated. In the fourth century, church officials decided to institute the birth of Jesus as a holiday. Unfortunately, the Bible does not mention date for his birth (a fact Puritans later pointed out in order to deny the legitimacy of the celebration). Although some evidence suggests that his birth may have occurred in the spring (why would shepherds be herding in the middle of winter?), Pope Julius I chose December 25. It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival.

On a completely unrelated note, the city council in Austin is considering a law against feeding deer. Austin would become the largest city in the state with such a law. But getting rid of deer in urban or suburban areas isn't as easy as stopping the feeding. According to a state biologist, the deer would remain where they are, though they'd be less likely to congregate. The only real solution is to trap them or "harvest" them. Harvest means kills, of course. Meanwhile, the same homeowners who gripe about the deer freak out if they see a coyote. The danger posed to humans by coyotes is so tiny as to be almost nonexistent, but people want them exterminated. Gee, what happens when you get rid of all the predators? Animals like deer tend to thrive. 

One of my game warden buddies called me this morning, just touching base. He mentioned that he'd done a recent investigation into an incident where some Mexican drug runners in a boat exchanged gunfire with Border Patrol agents in another boat on Lake Amistad. The sad thing is, that sort of thing doesn't even make the news anymore. Likewise with another incident where a Texas warden got dragged about a hundred yards by a fleeing suspect. 

The heads continue to roll in the publishing industry. There have been recent layoffs at Simon & Schuster, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Thomas Nelson, and quite a few others. As I've mentioned before, this is not a good time to pitch a book—but that's what my agent is doing for me right now. Hey, the editors have to acquire something, right? Cross your fingers for me. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A couple of photos.

It actually snowed here last night, and here's proof, plus my dog.

You know how some people find the Virgin Mary in a tortilla or in the mold growing on the side of a water tower? Well, my wife found Charlie Brown in a couple of buttermilk biscuits. Of course, you might see something else. But I say it's Charlie Brown, and it must be a portent of something. 

Monday, December 08, 2008

Just a reminder...

Number of OU players from Texas: 41

Number of UT players from Oklahoma: 0

Number of Florida Gators from Texas: 8

Number of UT players from Florida: 0

Of the teams that have a legitimate claim to being the best in the country, how many were within literally one play of having an undefeated season? One.

Which team was that? You know the answer to that already. 

Hook 'Em

Young hunter has success. 

My friend Joe sent me a photo of his recent deer-hunting adventures with his son, Joseph. Nice buck, Joseph. Joe also said he'd be donating blood again soon. Send me a photo, Joe, so I can post it here. 

Friday, December 05, 2008

One tricky momma. 

Here's a good example of real life sounding just as intriguing as an imaginative crime-fiction novel:
From CNN:
NEW YORK (AP) -- Doreen Giuliano was obsessed with saving her son from a life behind bars after he was convicted of murder.

She gave herself an extreme makeover -- blonde dye job, fake tan, sexy wardrobe, phony name -- and began spying on jurors. She befriended one juror to root out any possible misdeeds at the trial, and for nearly eight months, they drank at bars, smoked marijuana and shared meals in her tiny Brooklyn hideaway.

The juror eventually opened up to her about his time as a juror, completely unaware that this seductive older woman was the same dutiful mother who sat through the entire trial just a few feet away from him.
Doesn't this sound like a great premise for a novel? If fact, it wouldn't surprise me if something like this has already been written. You can read the full article here.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

As they say, life is in your hands. (Plus, maybe, a free book.)

There's an article in the Austin American-Statesman today about a woman who has donated 25 gallons of blood in the past 18 years. I have a lot of catching up to do. I started donating blood last year, so I'm only at about ten or eleven pints. But I donate every eight weeks and it adds up quickly. 

If you've never given blood, you'd be amazed at how simple and painless it is. Plus, most blood centers have mobile drives that pop up all over town, so you can usually find one that's only five or ten minutes from your house. The good feeling you get becomes an addiction—I can't imagine not giving blood every eight weeks. 

Can I talk you into donating blood? I'm going to try. Here's an offer good from now until the end of the year, or while supplies last. If you will go to a blood center or a mobile drive and donate blood, then send me a photo of yourself as you're donating, I will mail you a signed hardback copy of Bone Dry, Flat Crazy, or Guilt Trip. (A few of them have very small remainder marks, but does that really matter?)

Think about the gift possibilities. I could sign the book to your father or mother or brother or sister. Or I'll sign it to you, and you'll have something to read over the holidays. Does that sound like a fair trade? 

One other thing: Since there are some people out there who would simply surf the Net and find a photo of someone donating blood, then email that photo to me, you'll have to make a gesture in the photo that will verify it as an authentic response to my offer. What's the gesture? Simply make the Hook 'Em Horns symbol when the photo is taken. For you non-Texans, I've attached a photo, so you'll do the gesture correctly and not wind up in trouble with the authorities. 

I really hope you'll consider my offer. I'd like nothing more than to mail out a bunch of books in the next four weeks. Just email me a photo and your address. There's an email link on my website: 

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

They changed it!

I'm guessing some attentive editor saw the humor and decided it wasn't appropriate. Also, they probably wanted to make it clear that they were talking about Bill Clinton, not Bill Crider. 

We've known this for a long time.

This is a headline from the CNN web site:

Monday, December 01, 2008

Sorry. He's left the building. 

I was doing some research on copyright protection this morning, and I ended up on the Web site for the U.S. Copyright Office. There, they have a long list of FAQs. Here's one that caught my eye:

How do I protect my sighting of Elvis?
Copyright law does not protect sightings. However, copyright law will protect your photo (or other depiction) of your sighting of Elvis. File your claim to copyright online by means of the electronic Copyright Office (eCO). Pay the fee online and attach a copy of your photo. Or, go to the Copyright Office website, fill in Form CO, print it, and mail it together with your photo and fee. For more information on registration a copyright, see SL-35. No one can lawfully use your photo of your sighting, although someone else may file his own photo of his sighting. Copyright law protects the original photograph, not the subject of the photograph.